The therapeutic antibody market will treble in size to $30 billion by 2010, according to new research from Datamonitor, which says public perception has been helped by the leap from mouse-derived to humanized or fully-human antibodies, which are associated with less side effects. Antibodies now look set to make their long-awaited commercial impact.

Chimeric antibodies have grown to dominate the mAbs market with 60.2% of sales in 2004, according to Datamonitor healthcare analyst David Evans. “Key products in this category include Roche/Genentech’s Rituxan/MabThera (rituximab) and Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade (infliximab). Now, more recently-launched humanized antibodies, including Roche/Genentech’s Avastin (bevacizumab) and Herceptin (trastuzumab), MedImmune’s Synagis (palivizumab) and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Erbitux (cetuximab), are also starting to make a real commercial impact, along with the first fully human antibody, Abbott’s Humira (adalimumab).”

“Together, these have driven exceptional mAbs market sales growth of 48% from less than $7 billion in 2003 to over $10 billion in 2004. In the present environment of decreasing returns on pharmaceutical R&D, these kinds of statistics are making the whole pharmaceutical industry sit up and take notice,” he says. “Datamonitor forecasts growth for the total mAbs market between 2004 and 2010 at an annual rate of almost 20%, far outstripping the pharmaceutical industry as a whole, while the number of marketed antibodies is expected to more than double.”

Another key factor that is set to extend the success of antibody products is the lack of generic competition defining the end of their commercial lifecycles. Because no regulatory framework exists for ‘biosimilar’ antibodies and none is expected for several years, the first antibody products will benefit from a longer lifetime and only gradual sales erosion by new branded competitors, says Datamonitor. And, despite the most recent disappointment – the withdrawal of Biogen Idec/Elan’s multiple sclerosis antibody, Tysabri (natalizumab) – the analysts believe that such “pipeline setbacks will be outweighed by the expected success of new antibodies with huge blockbuster growth potential, such as Humira, Avastin, Erbitux and CDP 870.”